HOUSTON (ABC4 Sports) - D.J. Tialavea wasn't even drafted coming out of Utah State in 2014. So there is no way he thought he'd make it to the Super Bowl just three years later with the Atlanta Falcons.
"I never even thought I was going to be in the NFL," Tialavea said. "So, being in the NFL and making the team was a blessing, and being in the Super Bowl is just the icing on the cake."
Tialavea was a big part of Utah State's resurgence under Gary Andersen. He says no matter what happens in his NFL career, he'll always be proud of that.
"They struggled for a long time, and we kind of had to flip that program around," Tialavea said. "It took a lot of work and a lot of effort. The guys that I met there and played with, and the coaches that influenced us, it was a special bond that I'll always remember."
After two years on practice squads with Jacksonville and Atlanta, Tialavea finally got his chance to play in a real game this season. In week 16 against Carolina, Tialavea made his first career NFL catch, a 1-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan. That moment was a culmination of all the hard work he put in over the years, and it proved to himself what he learned as an Aggie was true.
"It just made me work hard because nothing was easy for us," he said. "It made me work hard and made me realize that hard work pays off. It gives you that reassurance that even if you're struggling, if you work hard, one day it will pay off."
While Tialavea has been inactive for the Falcons two playoff wins, and he knows he probably won't play Sunday against the Patriots, he's taking in the entire Super Bowl experience.
"It's amazing, it's surreal," he said. "It's everything we dreamed of when we were kids. So, I'm just trying to soak it all in and enjoy the week."
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